Rugby team from Winona State makes national semifinals

Rugby may not be the most popular sport in the United States, but those who play it couldn’t imagine a better sport to participate in.

“It’s the true team sport. If you are dedicated to your fitness, to your weight training, to your sprint work, and your distance work and the physicality of it – that’s what it takes to be a good rugby player,” says Josh Krzewinski, one of the coaches of the Winona State Black Katts.

The Black Katts are the women’s rugby club team on the campus of Winona State.

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“It’s as much of a mental game as it is a physical game. All of your fears and your inhibitions or any nervousness you have about going into contact or dropping a ball or anything like that, you kind of have to toss out the window,” adds Winona State senior Hilary Pletta

The Winona State Black Katts began winning and winning often in 2012, something they attribute to all the hard work that they do during practice, which always begins with 30-minutes of running.

“Fitness was huge from the get go and all season that has been one of our biggest themes. To keep the girls running and I think the biggest thing they noticed was once they were fit, we just started steam rolling teams,” says coach Rob Thorensen.

That fitness level has helped the Black Katts reach the Division II Final Four for the first time in the 20 year history of the program.

Junior Ashley Nelson can’t believe the journey the Black Katts are currently on. “Its just surreal to actually make it there, we’ve always been pushing towards it.”

And Nelson isn’t the only one. “Its still unbelievable, I still have those moments where I cant believe its real,” adds Pletta.

The club team from Winona State heads to Stanford, California this weekend two wins away from a national championship.

“Obviously we’re proud of the kids, but there are still two more games to go. But we’re really excited and there is a lot of support from the community and from alumni and family so its been a very exciting last couple weeks,” says Thorensen.